Farm technology bound for Africa

Farm technology bound for Africa

(L-R) Professor Paul van Gardingen – Director, Research Into Results; 

Professor James Smith – Edinburgh University Vice Principal; 
Alistair Carmichael; Dr Andy Frost – Director, Research Into Results 
and Dr Alan Tollervey – DFID Agriculture Research Team Leader

18 August 2014. An Edinburgh research group is to receive £10.8 million from the UK Government to provide leading-edge agricultural technology in Africa. The group will receive their funding over six years from the Department for International Development (DFID) for their Social Enterprises for Economic Development (SEED) programme.

Research Into Results (RIR) will make the latest agricultural innovations available to small businesses in 10 east and southern African countries. The group will then mentor these businesses to help them grow and find private investment.

RIR has already delivered pest-free crops, improved crop storage systems and a developed a mobile phone app that advises farmers the best time to plant their crops.

SEED will support the commercialisation of new agriculture technology in markets accessible to at least 500,000 small-scale farmers.

  • SEED aims to turn promising research into commercially viable technology. 
  • It has the potential to make more than half a million farmers become more efficient, helping them to feed their families and work their way out of poverty.
  • The programme will be based in Rwanda and work in 10 countries
  • SEED seeks to enhance the flow of investment-ready proposals that reach investment funds and banks. 
  • By working with a range of partners, SEED will develop new enterprises to help take technology to market
  • It aims to overcome the investment gap that can stop promising research turning into valuable technology.

The SEED Programme will develop technology-driven social enterprises whose products and services increase the profitability of smallholder farmers. There is a substantial, unmet need for ambitious social enterprises in Africa. SEED is an ambitious programme. It aims to be a game-changer, to create viable social enterprises for the benefit of smallholder farmers. Dr Andy Frost Director of Research Into Results

Research Into Results (RIR)
Centre of African Studies


Technology Development Assistance for Agriculture: Putting Research into Use in Low Income Countries
By N Clark, A Frost, I Maudlin & A Ward

Routledge, 2013; 200 pp.

How should development organisations, donors or indeed national governments attempt to support the development of new technologies for agriculture? In the last few decades, billions of dollars have gone into research labs and universities to support technology development, but in low income countries, particularly in Africa, the benefits for rural populations can be hard to detect. Such a situation motivated the UK’s Department of International Development to try a new approach, under its Research into Use (RIU) programme.

The RIU Best Bets initiative was much more hands on than simply providing grants for research work. In attempting to secure value for money for its investment in developing a number of farming technologies, it sought to engage private sector actors in processes that put these technologies in the hands of farming communities. This book reviews that work, featuring case studies from across sub-Saharan Africa, and making recommendations for how this work should inform future funding of technology development.

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